Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Open air Elvis and other larger-than-life people on London's canals

You do see some surprising things when travelling the waterways. On the Paddington Branch, for example, is Elvis Presley, five (or so) storeys up.

I assume it's Elvis Presley.

And this is Samuel House on the Regents Canal. Orange boards covering the windows of empty flats have been replaced with portraits of past and present residents of the Haggerston and Kingsland Estate in Hackney.

It's an art work called i am here. This is from the website:

Without any prior warning in April 2007 (...) bright orange boards were promptly fitted over the windows of all the vacated and empty flats on Haggerston & Kingsland estate. This rather bold visual statement even further underlined the dilapidation of the estate. The blocks now dotted with orange boards rapidly turned into an object of curiosity, especially for the passers-by using the increasingly popular towpath along Regents Canal for daily commuting to and from work, or for weekend strolls to Victoria Park and Broadway Market.

i am here was initiated by artists who are themselves long-term residents of Samuel House. Through their open windows, facing on to the canal, they often overheard passersby speculating on reasons for the building's demise and its current state. The installation aims to disturb this one-way interrogation by replacing the 67 bright orange boards with large-scale photographs of residents on the estate: onlookers no longer stand unchallenged, as their gaze is met and returned by a multitude of faces consisting of current and former residents on the estate. Thus the project literally humanises a piece of architecture on its final journey.

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